Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.55 18 Feb 2021


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People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith has said she does not understand why the Government is waiting before rewarding key pandemic workers.

She was speaking after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar suggested staff who have worked through the crisis could receive cash payments - or additional holidays - in appreciation for their efforts.

He also suggested that part of the legacy of the pandemic would be better terms, conditions and security for those in the private sector.

Deputy Smith told The Hard Shoulder this is welcome news, but questioned the timetable.

"It's welcome - if he means a word of it it's very, very welcome.

"The one thing I would take issue with him on is that 'this all has to be done tomorrow after we're out of the COVID crisis, we'll look at it then'

"There are some things he could absolutely do now - like pay the student nurses and midwives, who've been campaigning to be paid for what they're doing in the hospitals and how we're totally reliant on them.

"They could find the money to give the Debenhams workers... that they were deprived of as a casualty of the pandemic, because they didn't get their agreed redundancy money.

"And they could indeed implement a compulsory sick pay scheme for meat plant workers".

'Up to the workers'

She said that there is a rise in outbreaks in meat plants, and workers there "have no sick pay scheme and are very reluctant to report as being sick or having doubts about their well-being".

"So there's a number of things we could do now, and I would welcome the discussion on how to look after people who have really, really struggled through the last 11 months".

Asked if she had a preference in terms of remuneration for workers, Deputy Smith said that is up to them.

"I don't think it should be up to me, or indeed Leo Varadkar, or anybody else to decide whether it's time off or a payment - that is what the workers unions, or workers themselves will engage one to one, will decide."

She said she understands why transport workers are seeking an extra 10 days of annual leave in the coming year year

"You can see why the NBRU, for example, are looking for extra leave because bus drivers and train drivers were forced to take their holidays when everything was really quiet and nothing was happening.

"They were told 'you must take your leave now or you'll lose it'".

And she said a lot of healthcare workers "were forced to use up their annual leave because they hadn't got any childcare arrangements from the State".

"I think it depends on each group of workers what they think is appropriate - but that needs to be acknowledged, that it's different in every case."

Main image: Solidarity/People Before Profit Brid Smith TD speaking on the plinth outside Leinster House in May 2020. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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Additional Holidays Bríd Smith Cash Payments Compulsory Sick Pay Scheme Debenhams Workers Key Pandemic Workers Key Workers Leo Varadkar NBRU People Before Profit Student Nurses The Hard Shoulder

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